101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
Global Chief Marketing Officer and Global Chief Creative Officer at Volvo Cars
“Mind the gap!”
Andreas Malm, Global Chief Marketing Officer and Global Chief Creative Officer at Volvo Cars.
Andreas joined the renowned agency Forsman & Bodenfors in 1999 where he served as a creative, senior partner and member of the board. Under his watch, Forsman & Bodenfors was consistently in the top tier of international agency rankings and won over 100 lions and six Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. He contributed to the agency’s transformation from a local shop to one of the world’s best. In 2018 Andreas joined Volvo as Global Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Creative Officer at Volvo Cars, thus continuing outstanding creative excellence.
Uli Reese: You have said: ‘If we try to fill a gap in consumer’s minds instead of trying to fill a three second slot on Instagram, we will look at our jobs in a completely different form’. Can you expand on what that might mean for sonic?
Andreas Malm: The digital era we’re living in is one of the most interesting human developments ever and we should focus on the opportunities that it gives us. If we get caught up in technology, we’ll lose the opportunity to connect to our consumers. Data offers ability and insight, but it’s important to look at what consumer interaction does. The industry has this ongoing fight between data and creativity and the problem occurs when creativity is lost to data, or vice versa. Through audio, good communication evokes feelings and establishes a stronger connection between sender and receiver. Communication is based on the ability to send out a message that touches the recipient, so we need to see the brand as multi-layered and audio elevates the message or idea to the next level. So yes, you may be able to show that I’ve clicked on a banner but if you’re taking away the ability to stir feelings and emotions then you take away many of the possibilities we have today.
Through audio, good communication evokes feelings and establishes a stronger connection between sender and receiver.
Reese: Without going down the pop culture route, have you looked at Volvo getting its own sonic identity?
Andreas: We’ve had these discussions and when it comes to a sonic signature for Volvo we could do more, but I always start from the personality perspective. Yes, it would be interesting if Volvo were to use a hip-hop tune but it starts with us asking, what is the personality of Volvo? That’s the challenge. I don’t think you’ll ever find the perfect formula. It’s important to continue to explore not only yourselves, but also to connect to your consumers using the many layers that comes with a brand.
Reese: You need a sonic personality that is flexible otherwise you will kill creativity but so many brands are tied to sonic logos.
Andreas: The reason why a sonic logo is good is because when the commercial break comes on and you go to the kitchen, you’ll hear it and recognise it. That’s the upside. What we’re talking about is how do we evoke emotions? That’s something completely different. That’s all about how we get people not to leave when the commercial break comes and how we get people to listen when they’re sitting in their car when the radio spot appears. In this era of digitization, how do we make sure with music or sonic that we don’t lose the ability to evoke emotions? And, again, how do we make sure that we can strengthen the connection between sender and receiver? That’s completely different than a sonic logo.
Reese: So why do you think audio has become so important in the digital age?
Andreas: When the phone turned into a smartphone it became the centerpiece of our lives. That brought sound closer to us with all that it entails. What I mean by that is that I have my iPhone here and I’m one click away from my favourite music but I’m also one click away from the most annoying music. The reason why Instagram’s and Facebook’s default mode are silent is because 80% of the music is not appreciated. If it’s good, the consumer will embrace it and if it’s bad, they will not. In the same way if it’s a good spot people will stay during the commercial break, and if it’s bad, they will go to the fridge to fetch a beer. Sound is becoming more important because it surrounds us all the time, but consumers are looking for quality, and there’s a lack of quality out there.
Reese: One of the hardest things to sell to a client is music. What is the solution?
Andreas: I have a clear point of view on this, which connects the dots to where we started this when you quoted me. If you think of artists like Beyoncé or Coldplay, I would guess that all of them have close to 100 million followers on their social media channels. That makes them media channels themselves. If you look at a song that has one billion streams on Spotify, that is media. You are lagging behind if you don’t classify it as media. If you classify it as music, then it’s a cost that’s added on top of an already expensive production, and three days before it’s supposed to be aired you end up having a discussion along the lines of; ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could use Coldplay’s latest hit?’ So, then the cost of that song becomes as expensive as the production itself. No CMO will support that approach. But if you turn it around and say here’s an even more interesting media channel, which isn’t called BBC, it’s called Chris Martin, it would be part of the discussion much earlier than it is now.
If you can engage with a new consumer who starts to relate to your brand, they’ll continue to interact and by the end they’ll become fans.
Reese: So, buying less media time puts you in better shape but how do you create higher value?
Andreas: Our job is to create engagement. If anyone sees a Volvo ad and doesn’t care, we’ve lost money. But if you can engage with a new consumer who starts to relate to your brand, they’ll continue to interact and by the end they’ll become fans. When we’re having these music discussions at Volvo, we should find a way of making more out of each choice. So, for example, can we ask Chris Martin to do a version of it? Or ask another artist to do a version of it because then it will become more interesting? And if that’s the idea we should put it into the brief because that creates a higher value.
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